No better way to reward defection than offering its leader the post of Chief Minister

Sunil Prabhu disqualification notice
Sunil Prabhu disqualification notice

Sunil Prabhu disqualification notice: Shiv Sena Chief Whip Sunil Prabhu told the Supreme Court ahead of tomorrow’s big hearing on the political crisis in the state, “There cannot be a better way to reward defection than by giving the chief minister’s post to its leader.” The rebel MLAs should be suspended till the disqualification proceedings are completed, Mr Prabhu wrote.

Sunil Prabhu disqualification notice

The Supreme Court had on June 27 issued notice to the deputy speaker seeking his reply on a petition filed by the Eknath Shinde camp against his disqualification notice.

Members of the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena faction – including Shiv Sena Chief Whip Sunil Prabhu and Vice President Narhari Jirwal – have now filed their replies.

The court will hear the petitions of both the parties tomorrow.

Responding to Eknath Shinde’s appeal, Prabhu wrote today, “The MLAs indulge in anti-party activities and deserve to be disqualified as members of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly.”

The rebels have committed the “constitutional sin of defection“. Eknath Shinde – who is now chief minister – “was completely allied with the BJP,” read the response in Mr. Prabhu’s court.

Maharashtra MLAs were sitting in Assam passing a “resolution” which had the effect of destabilizing their own government. The chief whip said his conduct was “arrogant and clear” and that his membership in the party should be terminated.

Mr Prabhu also asked the top court to prevent the rebels from entering the assembly or taking part in the proceedings of any house till the disqualification proceedings are completed. The rebels had last attended a two-day special session of the Assembly where they voted in favor of the Eknath Shinde-led government.

Deputy Speaker Narhari Jirwal has also justified the disqualification action against the rebel MLAs. He has asked that if the Eknath Shinde camp can knock on the doors of the apex court in 24 hours then why they can’t respond to the disqualification notice issued by them in 48 hours. He said the MLAs were given 48 hours to respond to the disqualification petitions and there was no illegality in it.

Mr. Jirwal said the MLAs never contacted him and sought more time to reply. He also said that the Supreme Court has held that the number of days is insignificant and what matters is whether sufficient and reasonable time has been given to the respondent to file his reply.

“The notice of 39 MLAs quitting the party had come to me through an unverified email id. Hence, it was not taken on record,” the deputy speaker said.

Mr. Jirwal also said that the notice by the rebel MLAs for his removal was invalid as it can be given only when the Assembly is in session.

Last month, Mr. Zeerwal issued notices to 16 rebels, who followed Eknath Shinde to Surat, then to Guwahati and later to Goa. Mr. Shinde’s name is also in the list.

The notices were sent following requests for disqualification from the faction before former chief minister Uddhav Thackeray stepped down from the top post.

But the rebels had challenged this in court and claimed that they have a two-thirds majority and hence they are the real Shiv Sena and have the power to forge an alliance with the BJP.

Team Thackeray argued that his stand was illegal and under the anti-defection law, he could be disqualified as he has not merged with the BJP.

The Tenth Schedule of the Constitution disqualifies defectors from membership of legislative bodies, but some exemptions have been made in its paragraph 4, which reads: “Disqualification on the ground of defection shall not apply in the case of merger. (1) A member The House shall not be disqualified … where his parent political party merges with another political party and he claims that he and other members of his parent political party: (a) has become a member of such other political party or, as the case may be, of a new political party formed by such merger; or (b) has not accepted the merger and has opted to act as a separate group….

“(2) …the merger of the parent political party of a member of a House shall be deemed to have taken place when, and only if, at least two-thirds of the members of the legislature party concerned agree to such merger.”

Sub-section (2) has often been interpreted as – if two-thirds of the MPs of a party plead guilty and join another party, they shall escape disqualification. The Goa High Court has upheld this.

Critics point out that the entire paragraph 4 is badly framed and leaves loopholes for buy-in – which is what the law is intended to prevent.

Despite the revolt by the Eknath Shinde faction, the core Shiv Sena remains under the leadership of Uddhav Thackeray, wrote chief whip Sunil Prabhu.